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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Marillion

This Strange Engine

Review by Gary Hill

In our quest to start filling some of the holes in our archives, I decided to review this Marillion disc. I think that I have made it pretty clear that I’m partial to the Fish era of Marillion. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the Hogarth era. It’s also not about Steve Hogarth at all. The music changed. It tended to get more “song” oriented, more “folk rock” like. It was a bit more formulaic.

This album really showcases the strengths and weaknesses of the era. There is a lot of emotion here. That’s a strength that’s largely due to Hogarth himself and his vocal deliveries. On the downside, a lot of the album seems to follow a very similar formula. There isn’t a lot of change from one song to another. Still, there are a few cuts that break that, and the epic really feels like it could have come from the Fish era of the band. Overall, this is a very good album with moments of brilliance that far exceed that rating.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Man of a Thousand Faces

This piece starts more or less like a folk rock song, and it stays in that kind of format for a while. The thing is, it just keeps growing and building and becomes quite a powerful prog rocker near the end.

One Fine Day
There’s a Beatles-like vibe at the start of this and at various points throughout the song. It’s more of a rocker from the start than the previous one was at first. The lyrical theme seems sad and defeatist. It’s the vocal performance that really carries this, but there are some good musical moments.
80 Days
The same basic premise makes up this song. It’s not a standout, but it’s good. It’s sort of the typical Hogarth era, tune, more pop rocker than prog rocker.
Estonia
The prevailing element here is that same folk rock like sound. The vocal performance is what makes this one work as well as it does.
Memory of Water
This is even mellower. It’s definitely a folk ballad. Once again, it’s powerful because of the vocal treatment, but by this point the formula is starting to wear a little thin.
An Accidental Man
Rocking out from the beginning most of this song has a real retro rock vibe to it. There’s a little electronic interlude in the middle of it, too, though. There is a classic prog styled jam later in the piece that’s smoking hot, too. It has such a great vintage sound. This is one of my favorite songs here.
Hope for the Future
Another that’s not the most proggy thing here, this has a more folk based section early, then it turns into more of a mainstream retro rock sounding tune later. It’s a good piece, though and brings some variety to the proceedings.
This Strange Engine
Now, this epic piece is the selling point of the album for me. It’s dynamic and diverse ride. It’s the one point on the album that really feels like vintage Marillion. Considering that it accounts for about half the disc, that’s a good thing. It has a lot of range between mellower and more rocking sections. There is a lot of emotion and drama built into the piece. This is a wonderful number, really. It’s the kind of thing that drew me to Marillion in the first place. It’s the kind of thing that keeps me as a fan. It’s also proof that the thing I don’t like as much about newer Marillion isn’t Steve Hogarth – by any means. It’s the difference in musical style.  
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